The poem "Visiting hour" by Norman McCaig - review

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Visiting Hour – Norman MacCaig

The poem "Visiting hour" by Norman McCaig is about the poet visiting someone (possibly his mother) who is terminally ill in hospital. It is about human suffering

and how helpless a person can feel when faced with a loved one dying, knowing that there is nothing you can really do to help.

The poem has a tone that makes things seem strange and threatening. It is full of distortion and strange ways of saying things to show us that what the visitor is

faced with is almost nightmarish and that they are extremely uncomfortable in this environment.

In the first stanza it is not the visitor that is described as walking along the corridor, just his "nostrils", "bobbing along" with the "hospital smell" combing them in the "green and yellow corridors".

It is almost as if the smells and the nostrils have a life of their own and the visitor cant control either of them. The mention of the smell and the colour of the corridors instantly give us an image of sickness and help to take the reader on the same journey the visitor is taking.

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When the poet goes on to describe the patient he uses similar distortions. She is not described as a whole person. We are presented with impersonalised images

of "A withered hand" which "trembles on its stalk" and there are "eyes" and "an arm" and the intravenous drip becomes "a glass fang" as if it is almost as much a

part of her as the other parts described.

The use of the metaphor to describe her wrist as a "stalk" with a "withered hand" makes me think of a dead, withered flower, something that was once of beauty

but ...

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